No matter what your views on it are, smoking is becoming less and less socially acceptable, and the people who come to see me for smoking cessation are increasingly giving that as one of their reasons. What many of them have tried is e-cigarettes”, and with 2.1M users in the UK and “vaping” predicted to overtake smoking in the west in the next ten years, there’s also no doubt that this is increasing in popularity.
High profile smokers such as Kate Moss and Simon Cowell have been photographed vaping, and Heathrow’s Terminal 4 now has a dedicated vaping lounge. At some basic level the idea of steam vapour rather than smoke suggests that it must be cleaner, and therefore less risky – but what are the facts about vaping.
Firstly e-cigarettes, unlike those with tobacco, don’t routinely contain more than seventy known carcinogens, and despite the occasional tabloid headline, don’t ordinarily contain formaldehyde or antifreeze. E-cigarettes do contain nicotine, which whilst not carcinogenic is addictive, and can cause headaches, high blood pressure, and even heart arrhythmia if over inhaled. They also often contain propylene glycol, a known irritant to the airways that can cause a dry mouth and a sore throat.
There aren’t any long term studies about the health effects of vaping, and the majority of studies that have been carried out have looked at it as a route to stopping smoking tobacco. However, unlike nicotine patches or gum there are no legal restrictions or requirements around e-cigarettes, their nicotine levels, or even the age at which they can be bought. This anomaly will be removed by 2016 when the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency will be responsible for licensing e-cigarettes, and they will have to meet standards of safety, quality, and efficacy as aids to stopping smoking.
The evidence for vaping as an aid to stopping smoking isn’t clear cut in either direction. The fear that it will encourage non-smokers to start hasn’t been proven, with only one in every thousand vapers never having smoked before. With vaping banned in many restaurants, pubs, hotels, cinemas, and trains, the fear that vaping would normalise smoking hasn’t been seen in the UK as yet. However adverts for e-cigarettes, which are owned by tobacco companies, do portray it as edgy, youthful, and sexy.
Where does that leave you with using e-cigarettes as a route to stopping smoking? Generally if you smoke more than ten cigarettes a day it’s not practical as you will need to vape substantially more in order to get the same nicotine levels. If you smoke less than ten cigarettes a day then nicotine replacement therapy is still better than vaping, and if you smoke infrequently – perhaps socially or through opportunity – then a spray or inhaler will be better and less tempting than e-cigarettes.
Finally if you want to harness your will power, or prefer not to replace one way of delivering nicotine with another, then you can find out more about becoming a non-smoker through hypnotherapy by clicking on the links.